This is True
by Randy Cassingham

The Truth about PETA

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Does PETA protect and nurture the animals placed in its care? Find out -- this story is from True's 17 July 2005 issue. (Letters on the below have been added to the very end of this page. Go there.)

"Ethical" Defined

After more than 100 dead dogs were dumped in a trash dumpster over four weeks, police in Ahoskie, N.C., kept an eye on the trash receptacle behind a supermarket. Sure enough, a van drove up and officers watched the occupants throw in heavy plastic bags. They detained the two people in the van and found 18 dead dogs in plastic bags in the dumpster, including puppies; 13 more dead dogs were still in the van. Police say the van is registered to the headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the two occupants, Andrew B. Cook, 24, and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, identified themselves as PETA employees. An autopsy performed on one of the dogs found it was healthy before it was killed. Police say PETA has been picking up the animals -- alive -- from North Carolina animal shelters, promising to find them good homes. Cook and Hinkle have been charged with 62 felony counts of animal cruelty. In response to the arrests PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said it's against the group's policy for employees to dump animals in the trash, but "that for some animals in North Carolina, there is no kinder option than euthanasia." (Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald) ...Oops, my mistake: that's "Playing God" Defined.

The more I learn about PETA, the less I think of them. The story of them killing animals isn't even unusual. According to PETA's own filings, in 2004 PETA killed 86.3 percent of the animals entrusted to its care -- a number that's rising, not falling. Meanwhile, the SPCA in PETA's home town (Norfolk, Va.) was able to find loving homes for 73 percent of the animals put in its care. A shortage of funds? Nope: last year PETA took in $29 million in tax-exempt donations. It simply has other priorities for the funds, like funding terrorism (yes, really). But don't take my word for it: I got my figures from -- and they have copies of PETA's state and federal filings to back it up. The bottom line: if you donate money to PETA because you think they care for and about animals, you need to think some more. PETA literally yells and screams about how others "kill animals" but this is how they operate? Pathetic.

And you know what I wonder? PETA's official count of animals they kill is 86.3 percent. But if they're going around picking up animals, killing them while they drive around and not even giving them a chance to be adopted, and then destroying the evidence by dumping the bodies in the trash, are those deaths being reported? My guess: no. While 86.3 percent is awful, the actual number is probably much, much higher. How dare they lecture anyone about the "ethical" treatment of animals!

A lot of readers have asked for permission to run the above in on their websites, their blogs, their newsletters. Yes: if you use the cut and paste version below, which includes proper attribution. You are of course welcome to add your own comments above or below the text -- even if those comments are to dispute me or disagree with me. Because I'm not afraid of the truth; we'll see if PETA is or not.

Click Here to see what this will look like fully formatted.

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As you might expect I got quite a few letters on this story and my editorial. An extraordinary number of the authors asked me not to identify them -- that's how scared people are of PETA. I will thus identify none of the letter writers, even by first name.

About 90 percent of those who wrote applauded me running the story. One who apparently works with animals wrote, "I had to write and say THANK YOU for alerting your readers to the atrocities that PETA commits. Anyone professionally involved with animal care knows the seemingly unending list of horrors committed by them, but in our crazy world it is the professionals who are scared and on the defensive." The remaining 10 percent were generally pretty calm and rational (vs. ranting), with about half demanding that I acknowledge that there's a huge pet overpopulation problem, and the other half criticizing me for getting the numbers in my editorial from an anti-PETA web site -- Don't I Realize They Have An Agenda?!

Yes, we definitely do have a pet overpopulation problem, but I don't agree with the implication that therefore we must indiscriminately kill and dump animals in dumpsters. Even as bad as it is, the overpopulation problem is NOT at its zenith: it has been reduced dramatically thanks to spay/neuter programs. Currently, 4-6 million dogs and cats are killed per year by in the U.S. by shelters due to overpopulation. Sad, but consider than just 25 years ago, that number was more like 17 million (source: Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine). Still, what does this have to do with PETA taking in animals from shelters with the promise that they'll be giving them good homes, but then killing them in the back of the pick-up van without making any attempt to make good their promise? And what, exactly, is the justification for dumping these animals in the trash? And how is it that PETA kills such a high percentage of the animals entrusted to its care when the closest SPCA shelter to PETA's headquarters is able to find good homes for most of its animals? When I replied to the complaining readers with those questions, I got no answers.

Then there's the web site that I got a bit of backup information from. An anti-PETA web site with an agenda, they say? Well yeah: with a domain like you can pretty much expect that they're an anti-PETA web site with an agenda! Hello? That's why I pointed out that their source was ...PETA! -- the forms PETA filed with the state that details their kill percentages (again, 86.3 percent in the most recent year reported, a number that's going UP year by year). Sure PKA has an agenda, just as PETA has an agenda. But exactly what facts that I got from that site, I asked those readers, did they dispute? You guessed it: no answers.

In a bit of supreme ironic timing, one of the Editorial Board members of the New York Times wrote an opinion piece about the PKA organization the weekend after I ran this story. One angry reader who sent me that link taunted that I'd "never admit" there was such an article critical of the site. The reader didn't stop to think that unlike him, I'm not afraid of the truth.

Indeed, my favorite of the "pro" letters was from a reader who wrote, "I have heard all sorts of pro and con arguments about PETA over the years, and I wasn't sure what to believe. The anti-PETA web site you linked to showed me the problem was much worse than I had ever heard. The numbers are outrageous! But something caught my eye on your own page that instantly grabbed my attention. You gave permission for people to post your story and editorial on their web sites, and even explicitly gave permission for those who disagree with you to do it too. Quoting you, 'You are of course welcome to add your own comments above or below the text -- even if those comments are to dispute me or disagree with me. Because I'm not afraid of the truth.' All I can say is, WOW! I haven't always agreed with you myself, but I can respect you and disagree with you at the same time. Count me as a reader for life."

Do I think PETA is 100 percent evil? Absolutely not, but I think they may be doing more harm than good. (Just imagine if the $26 million they collected last year actually went to local SPCAs!) Some of what they do is great, like promoting spay and neuter programs which has dramatically cut down on the "need" to kill off "excess" dogs and cats. Just remember what TRUE's function is (beyond entertainment!): to promote thought, which also implies driving public dialogue on the issues raised. I think this issue needs thought and public dialogue, and I think the story provoked just that.

The last word on this goes to another reader who works with animals and "gets" that thought-provoking function:

As someone who has been in animal welfare for most of my adult life, I was thrilled to see your story and comments about PETA! Unfortunately, many people do not know that there is a huge difference between animal welfare and animal rights. Animal Welfare folks are interested in helping the animals have a better existence, whereas animal rights people place the same value on an animal life as human life -- AR people want there to be no meat eating, no fishing, no pets (dogs, cats, fish, horses, etc.), no farm animals, no hunting, etc. Many people think that when they support a national animal organization, they are helping animals in their community. That is incorrect. The national organizations pump out literature, web-sites, agenda promotion, and guidelines. This includes groups such as the American Humane Association, the Humane Society of the United States, and the International Society of Animal Rights. If people really want to help their community and the animals there they should do three things: 1) Spay & neuter all their dogs, cats & rabbits. 2) Make a lifetime commitment to their pets when they decide to get them. And 3) Support their LOCAL shelter (municipal or private) shelters if they wish to make a donation -- don't give their money to the national groups, it will not help the animals in their community. My job is as a humane educator to let people know these truths. I can go on and on about more ways people can help, but those are the top three. We need forums like yours, Randy, to help spread the word on how people can help! Thank you for doing that, and brightening up my day. It is hard to work in this business, seeing the carnage day after day. You remind me (through TRUE, TSA & HeroicStories) that there is hope for this world. Thank you!

Beyond the Last Word
A reader took me up on my challenge to respond to the
story and my editorial. Read our exchange.

PETA Responds! Their letter to me published in full.

And, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, a charity that
advocates "humane and responsible use of animals in medical
and scientific research" took PETA -- and their Hollywood
celeb supporters -- to task on this case. Their rather
provocative "Deathvan" ad campaign is here.

Copyright 2006 by ThisisTrue.Inc, All Rights Reserved worldwide. May not be copied, stored or redistributed without prior, written permission. "This is True" is a trademark of ThisisTrue.Inc.
Updated: September 2005

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